pct section 2015

One day, in early June, somewhere in the Tehachapi Mountains after a long water carry, Zipper and I were chugging water and chilling at Robin Spring, and a red-haired man named Merman called us LASHers — long ass section hikers. That made us feel a little better about ourselves and our big packs…

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Alright, this is my attempt at summarizing/journaling a 570 mile hike that began on May 20, 2015… one month after April 20 to be precise. This is gonna be a long chunk of rambling and loose information that I’m hoping to present in a somewhat organized manner…

Sometime in January 2015, spring semester had begun, and I was an eager sophomore at Pomona College, living in Clark3 and ready to tackle the challenging courses of ochem2, physics, calc3, and earth history… #science. At the same time, I was trying to figure out what I was doing for my upcoming summer. For the previous three summers, I worked as a wrangler at a place outside Cody, Wyoming called Rimrock Ranch. It was a “dude” ranch, and guests would come in on Sunday for a whole week. During their time at the ranch, my fellow wranglers and I took the guests on day rides (horseback) up and around the national forest area surrounding the ranch. I also occasionally drove them through Yellowstone on Fridays. Besides taking out rides, I also helped take care of 50 horses (including 2 mules and a donkey named Squid). That meant anything from fixing fence in our fields, putting shoes on the horses (pretty proud of myself for that one), doctoring horses who get hurt, or “breaking” horses. Well, none of our horses were really that bad, but some were young and needed to be ridden a while before guests could use them. I have more than a few stories about me falling off my horse, but I only really got “bucked” off twice legitimately. The other times I was goofing off not paying attention or a part of my saddle broke which happened two or three times. I even fell off Squid, but that’s a different story for another time. My two worst horse-related injuries didn’t even involve falling off: one was a rope burn (holy shit that hurt) and one was getting stepped on (a guest pulled off my big toe nail for me after a few days, puss went everywhere, it was great).

I love to think and talk about Rimrock because it is actually one of the most important places in my life. There, I spent everyday in touch with the land around me, wondering what it would be like to be on top of the mountain in the distance or what green valley is around the corner, with brook trout jumping for flies along the grassy stream bank. I grew to love fly fishing in Wyoming, or at least, the whole process behind it. Depending on the week, guests would be demanding or loud, or just the same as the week before, and I’d be a little down by the end of the workday. Don’t get me wrong, I met some amazing people, both coworkers and guests, during my time there. But still, we would finish driving the horses into the field down by the highway and give our wrangling ponies a bale of hay to chew on over night, and then I would have an hour before dinner to myself. Sometimes I’d chat with guests or drive to Red Barn with Levi or play guitar, but sometimes I got my fly rod and walked upstream, up old Canyon Creek. For me, there is nothing more relaxing and fulfilling than bushwhacking up a small stream in search for little trout — rainbows, brookies, cutthroats. The water swirls and splashes around you, grit and sand gets between your feet and chacos, and you’re silent so as not to scare away any fish, but you’re always slightly aware that a bear could be lurking around the corner, especially when you get up and far away. You crouch, you point your fly rod through an opening in the shrubs to make your way to the stream, and you spot a pool with some foam forming in the eddy. Everything moves too fast. It’s a little too dark to see anything underwater, but you know there’s one under there. You’re in a super uncomfortable position for about five minutes as you tie on your parachute adams, but you flick the fly out over the water anyway as if you’re not there. Sure enough, after two passes there’s a strike and a splash. A little guy’s on the line. A beautiful creature out of a beautiful stream, for a quick moment. Most people don’t know Canyon Creek is full of trout because you can’t see them. You just have to believe they’re in there.IMG_1066.jpg

Everyday I looked up at Mt. Ptarmigan looming over the ranch, wondering if I would ever summit the 12,000 foot tip of the fabled Wapiti Ridge that divides the North and South Fork of the Shoshone River draining the southern Absaroka Range. Somewhere in those mountains and basins there are stories of legendary pack-tripping guides and hunting guides who encountered grizzly bears, got lost, dealt with mule-train wrecks, lost horses for days at a time, or hung onto a bucking colt while descending icy switchbacks. Somewhere in those mountains is Yount’s Peak, where the longest undammed river in the lower 48 begins, Yellowstone River. I wonder what it would be like to stand there, at the foundation of it all.

After that long tangent, in a nutshell, Rimrock gave me a home close to the mountains where I developed a severe, albeit heavily romanticized, craving to get “up there” — up and over the topographic lines — and make my own adventures. I’m not sure if there is any greater purpose or reason for this desire, but it’s there and has been dictating what I want to do in my free time for a while now.

morning wrangle at rimrock, view from dc’s backIMG_1115.jpg

amber getting the horses out in the morningIMG_1188.JPG

ladybug mule does much better with a pack saddle instead of me on her backIMG_1132.PNG

 

Well that was a roundabout way of talking about the conception of my PCT section… back to the past present… After three years at the ranch, I wanted to do something a little bit different. During the summer of 2014, my friend Slammin’ Sammy Brooks — also a Baltimore native working in Wyoming (our dads actually worked at the same ranch together back in the 70s #tombrookstuesdays) — worked for a contractor who cleared trail in the Shoshone National Forest. We both tried to get that same job for 2015, but the contractor simply didn’t have enough jobs to hire any of us. Sam found a wrangling/pack tripping job for an outfitter in Jackson, and I thought about a bunch of different things.

While this was going on, I was beginning to experience a sophomore slump and general “holy shit I’m 20” crisis. I wasn’t really sure if I was studying the right things, and I started to question how motivated I was in school and in life. I forget how I actually felt, but I remember lots of confusion and lots of James Blake albums on repeat (things haven’t really changed)… I was also trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do after college since I was almost an official adult. I came to Pomona 100% set on being a “pre-med” junkie, hundo-p. I was gonna major in Neuroscience and minor in Music and write my thesis on how music affects the brain or some jazz like that, but as every person who attends a liberal arts college knows, things change, you change… thanks Obama. After the Wyoming gig fell through, I looked for a summer experience to get me some exposure as a way to either confirm or rule out medicine as a career option.

Meanwhile, Bozzy — my best friend from home — started asking me what I was up to this summer. In June 2014, we road tripped out to Wyoming, stopping at various spots along the way before I dropped him off in Lander for his NOLS course for the summer. We both love to get outside and get weird, so we make a pretty dynamic duo when traveling together. We go way back. I honestly can’t remember how the idea for the PCT section hike came up. We already knew about thru-hiking vaguely. I read Bill Bryson a while ago and knew about Wild. I can’t even really remember what happened, but one day we were on the phone as I was skating to lunch on my nickel board (rest in peace) and one of us must have said, “what if we just walked on the PCT for a while?”

We instantly said something to each other along the lines of: “let’s for sharks do that, let minnow when you get full confirmation.” After a few phone calls with my parents, we decided to begin the summer on the PCT and hike from the Claremont area to Yosemite and fly back to Baltimore for the rest of the summer. Once home, I would have a chance to explore some “real world” experiences in the medical world. A little bit of everything for the summer.

I immediately ordered a PCT guidebook on Amazon and started day dreaming about what it would be like to hike the PCT. I read up on thru-hiking and became obsessed. I even planned out the next 5 years of my life and how I would complete the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail + Pacific Crest Trail + Continental Divide Trail) before entering medical school. I’m not kidding, I have it on excel and in my grey moleskin titled “adventures” sitting right in front of me. Here’s an entry from that notebook:

“3/3/15: A call for adventure. Boz and I are resuming our adventures from last summer. This time we will be on foot, trying to cover as much of the PCT as possible in the first half of summer starting from the Mexican border. Can we make it to Tuolumne Meadows? Finish the John Muir Trail? Hike Mt. Whitney? We shall see.”

We didn’t start from the border, that would have been ridiculous. But wait, it gets even more funny and ridiculous.

“This promise of adventurous (?) has caused deep stirrings in my soul. I am making it a goal of mine to hike the entire PCT, AT, and CDT before entering a career.”

Then I go into a tirade in blue ink about the next 5 years of my life, as if I could control whatever happened in the future. Sometimes I look back at stuff I write and wonder why I felt so entitled. Later on, 3/9/15, I start talking more sense:

“Looks like Boz and I will start the PCT near Claremont so that we don’t have to hike a hotass desert.”

Over the course of the remaining semester, I prepared mentally and physically by playing lacrosse (ugggghhhh cougs), hackeysacking, building mental toughness by losing to Mitch in settlers of catan, hiking Mt. Baden-Powell with Eric, hiking the lost coast over spring break with Emelia+Nomi+Kyle+Reid, and bagging Mt. San Gorgonio with Eric. Man, that was an adventurous semester. I dolphinetly suggest doing the lost coast. That place is unreal madrid, and I would do it again with my surfboard to chill at a particular spot or two.

top of baden-powell with ericIMG_0437.JPG

lost coast dinner time

top of san gorgonioIMG_0775.JPG

Throughout the semester, I spent time with my handy-dandy guidebook, published in 2003, whenever I didn’t feel like doing work for school. I sat in the SCC mailroom, writing down notes in my grey moleskin about mileage, potential resupplies, phone numbers and addresses of post offices, and gear options. Excel spreadsheets were made, water reports were checked routinely, halfmile’s pct pdf maps were downloaded and stupidly printed in black and white (I went through and highlighted the trail in red ink), my pct permit was obtained, wild was read but not watched, and I bought some new gear here and there. My mom also knit me a beanie featured above^ (thanks mum!).

Here’s what I think was my gear list consisted of:

  • Big Stuff:
    • jansport 60L pack
    • lamina z flame mountainhardwear sleeping bag
    • z-rest foam pad (the foil foldy one)
    • trash bag for pack liner
    • boz has a 2 person marmot stormlight (awesome tent!) we split up to carry — i carried the tent body and bag, boz carried the fly and poles
  • clothes:
    • old rain jacket and pants
    • zipoff pants
    • long underwear
    • rei compression/boxers (baby blues)
    • long sleeve flyfishing shirt
    • green under armor tshirt
    • 3 pairs of darn tough socks (they’re still the best socks i own)
    • northface trail runners + green superfeet insoles
    • beanie
    • old green patagonia puffy
    • wyoming rodeo baseball cap
    • sunglasses w/ croakies
    • chacos
    • digital watch
  • other stuff:
    • BEAR CANS SENT TO KENNEDY MEADOWS
    • headlamp + extra batteries
    • solar charger
    • leatherman and another knife (why)
    • fishing line/leader/tippet whatever you call it, flies, and fly floatant
    • water: 2 nalgenes, one 2L platypus, one 4L watersack thing + AQUAMIRA
    • food eating: old jetboil flash (the bomb) + 2 huge fuel canisters (so heavy) + seatosummit bowl + jetboil fork and spoon
    • tin mug (i guess i did drink a lot of tea)
    • tiny compass + halfmile pct maps for sections
    • kindle and journal with pens
    • earplugs for iphone music and podcasts
    • chargers for phone+kindle
    • toiletries/first aid
      • lighter
      • toothbrush+paste
      • duct tape, sports tape
      • IBUPROFEN AND ALEVE, benadryl
      • nail clippers
      • trowel, tp, wetwipes
      • butt cream for chafing (wouldn’t go on a hike without it, butt cream saves lives)
    • A SLINGSHOT

I think that more or less covers it. Obviously, I brought a lot of luxury items/heavy stuff because at the time I didn’t really get the point of the whole ultralight/be-as-light-as-you-can thing. It wasn’t ridiculously heavy though. I think our packs weighed somewhere between 30 and 50 lbs depending on how much food and water we were carrying. We planned on a 12 day carry out of Kennedy Meadows, which was stupid and I’ll get to that later, but that was probably as heavy as we got. Probably tipped the scale at 50lbs, but we were in pretty good shape by then. There were a few people we traveled with who were similar to us, but most people had base weights closer to 15 or 20 lbs and probably rarely carried more than 35 lbs at a time. However, true thru-hikers had to walk 20 or more miles a day to stay on time to make it to Canada. Boz and I planned approximately 40 days where we had to average 15 miles a day, so we could goof around a bit more.

School came to a crashing end, and Boz flew down from Whitman to join me in Claremont. Thankfully, my dad came out to help us get on trail since it lined up with his work and also a conference my brother was involved with in LA. Something about the theory of theories, ask Key. After exams ended, we made multiple trips to costco and walmart, stocking up on trail food (aka junkiest of junk) to organize into resupply boxes for each of our planned legs. We planned 5 legs, so we had 4 boxes to mail out. It took a while to get the right food organized, and I really should have thought about it earlier, but everything was fine and we were able to send it out ok.

 

IMG_0807.jpg

We spent the last night in a hotel room since I got kicked off campus (school was over everyone had to leave). We had our packs all done up for the morning. They felt a bit heavier than I wanted them to.

Last words written in my journal before hiking: “Boz is asleep/napping. Got a kindle. Pretty excited though to stop thinking and get out there.”

Leg 1. Grassy Hollow Visitor Center –> Acton KOA 

Papa Mac drove us down i-10, up i-15 and over behind the San Gabriels past the Mormon Rocks. Passing through Wrightwood, we glimpsed a hiker heading into the post office, probably picking up a resupply package. We drove past the little ski lifts on the backside of Baldy. During SoCal winter, east coast transplant parents take their kids up here to sled. I have a strong belief that sledding is crucial in any kids’ life, so shout out to those parents making it happen.

We pulled over at Grassy Hollow Visitor and got our packs out of the trunk. It was day 1 and we looked like 2 joeys about to hit the trail for a bit. In addition, my dad insisted on a quick iphone photoshoot for his instagram feed (he’s well known in my circle of friends for his ‘insta’-presence) just as a school group was passing by led by some moms and forest rangers. We gave our hugs and thanks and started walking down the road. According to google maps the trail was just up the hill in the trees, but it took us longer than expected to find. Once we were walking we sort of said, “well I guess this is it…” and couldn’t think of much else to say. We ended up off trail within 10 minutes. We found it again.

We were dropping down to cross the road and hike up Mt. Baden-Powell, the same trail I went up in April. Last time I was there, it was covered in snow. Eric and I split his microspikes, so he had traction on his right foot only, and I had traction on my left foot only. On May 20, the trail up Baden-Powell was much warmer and steeper than I remember. Must have been the 40lb pack on my back instead of carrying a water bottle and jar of peanut butter in my school backpack like last time.

Before we hit Baden-Powell, however, we ran into our first thru-hiker. A guy named Mitch. One of my best friends at Pomona is named Mitch, so for everyone familiar with the famous Mitch Finkel – basketball and settlers overlord #wigmentturnup #clarkthree #TYFDWU – this is a different Mitch. He was the first thru-hiker guy we encountered, with his ULA pack and beard and tall lanky legs, so he was a special guy for Boz and me. I later wrote in my journal: “What is Mitch? He could be the guy we randomly run into along the way every now and then. He reminds us about the beginning, who we used to be, who we will always be, but most importantly, we just have really awkward, slow, yet hospitable conversations.” Sounds a little weird, but that was in the context of turning our tale of the trail into a fictional story where every hiker has a superpower. I got a lot weird ideas along the way, you’ll see… Here are the first few days in my journal…

“5/20/15, 6:30pm, Little Jimmy CG: Dunzel Washington w/ first day. Hiked 13 miles up Mt. Baden-Powell (way tougher w/40lb. bag..) then along the ridge a ways.. met a bunch of people already – everyone has smaller packs haha. Talked to Mitch a bunch. We probably will get passed up by everyone but it’s all good. Tomorrow is 12 miles, hope I am not too sore already.”

“5/21/15: Did ~12.4 miles from Little Jimmy CG to Cooper Creek Canyon CG. Pretty nice hike did the old detour which added a mile (11.4->12.4). Starting to feel feet, especially on road. Can’t complain though, pretty nice out here. Getting better with the slingshot. -Slingshot”

“Random scene – ‘I stared at the hole in my puffy jacket on my sleeve where little feathers poke out and quiver in the breeze. I only notice it when I’m in the sun and warm.’ Puffy jacket/ So Sun and warm/ slow me down while I sit/ make me notice trees/ flapping finches or whose name/ I do not know/ It’s just the beginning/ a way we do not know/ what will sway us or make us/ so warm and sun” ^ way to use know twice

“Boz’s name considerations: 1) Rosencrantz or Guildenstern aka Rosie or Gilly – but these have turned into imaginary friends/gals who follow us everywhere, Boz has Rosie, I have Gilly. 2) Meatloaf – mainly because I like saying ‘classic Meatloaf’… never knew a Meatloaf. 3) Moonshine aka Shiner, just sorta felt cool. 4) Duct Tape, something I just though of since he is duct taping his sleeping bag zipper.      Langston & other old dude who Boz thinks is a dick/super curt… Langston is from DC… what are their superpowers? Holy shit they did 26 miles today.”

“5/23 – 7:31pm. up above Messenger Flats CG: Look at the trees/ Watching the sunset/ And the clouds roll over/ Misting the evergreen/ Turn a purple shade/ All is well and will be reclaimed/ The next ridge over.     A lot has happened these past 2 days – many miles covered, lots of Chinese Double Talk spoken, and new people seen & met & remet. On Friday we left Cooper Canyon and I listened to the Moth podcasts as I walked, it was nice. That whole day was cloudy, foggy/misty, and cold! We met Cliffhanger and his girlfriend, they showed us what the poodle dog bush looks like, thank God. That bush sucks… it is everywhere. We camped at 413 next to some mountain, so we had gone 17.83 miles. Today we made it to Messenger Flats at 430, so 17 miles or so. Boy, what a nice day; we stopped near the end on top of a ridge and chilled there for a while – great stuff. We met this Croatian guy and Skyeyes. We left him a snickers at mile 420. We saw the three old people again… the elderlies or grandparents, idk, they’re very nice though. Two brothers, one by the name of Minotaur came into camp and are making a fire now. Tomorrow we have 14 miles to the KOA where we will get our package (great). Good stuff. I feel really great out here, so relaxed and stress free. Cool beans, Slingshot.”

“5/24…5:08pm: Arrived into Acton KOA early this afternoon… Passed the elders and Minotaur. On our way out past this parking lot, a guy named Coppertone gave us a root beer float, we chilled for a while with him. He’s been living out the back of an RV/truck he built for the last 6 or 7 years. We might see him in 114 miles! The KOA is packed, but we have our little hiker-trash corner. Lots of people here, met back up with Mitch! who says Boz (zip) looks like his little brother.Listening to some people talk German right now. KOA receptionist “Rhi” had paperclips for earrings. Minotaur talked “quantum energy” and hitch hiked to get a six pack… Life is pretty good – not much to say. Just living it, soaking in it, might do 22 miles tomorrow to CS466 (we did 14 today from 430 btw). -Slingshot”

In case you didn’t pick it up, I received my trail name, Slingshot, on the first night. We strolled into a camp where a bunch of other thru-hikers were staying and pretended like we knew what we were doing. We both did know what we were doing, we’re pretty experienced camping and stuff, but I just felt a little nervous fitting in with the cool crowd. Eventually, we started talking to people about how it was our first night on our section hike. Trail names came up eventually. Someone called me Slingshot because I was shooting pine cones off trees with my slingshot. I don’t know why I brought my slingshot, but it was a great way to pass the time. Every now and then throughout the hike, Boz and I would stop, sit down and shoot stuff. We never shot squirrels though…

Overall, the first leg went about as smoothly as a first leg could have gone. I really enjoy the San Gabriels – it’s wild how much forest and free space there is up so close to LA. We met a bunch of new people, and we also got to build up our legs with some relatively low mileage days. That night at Messenger Flats was beautiful. It was also awesome experiencing some trail magic – the root beer floats from Coppertone on the way to the KOA. ALSO, Boz picked up some brand new La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners in the hiker box there — huuge pickup. People drop stuff in hiker boxes they want to leave behind. Any hiker can just go grab stuff if they want, extra food, gear… a lot of it is junk, but you occasionally find gold… especially when you hit the John Muir Trail with all the JMTers…

Still, with our packs loaded up for the next leg, we were feeling a bit nervous. The road ahead featured some serious dry and exposed sections as we would traverse through the Mojave desert and onto the Tehachapi mountains. In my opinion, this next leg was our hardest, mainly mentally and also physically.

IMAGES from LEG 1

it’s “wild” jerry season on the pct ft. your boys about to climb baden-powell first dayIMG_0817.JPG

“backwards tennis hats are feared”IMG_0830.JPG

no bikes IMG_0821.jpg

baldy in the backgroundIMG_0822.jpg

view of baldy from baden-powellIMG_0824.jpg

no tp left in a gross outhouse pt. 1IMG_0828.jpg

blowing up the old sleeping padIMG_0833.jpg

cloudy/misty day walking through the san gabrielsIMG_0834.jpg

dope sauce clouds at messenger flats IMG_0840.jpg

messenger flats sunsetIMG_0847.JPG

 

Leg 2. Acton KOA –> Tehachapi

The next leg started off with a mistake on our part:

“5/26 7:43am: Well… sitting at CS466 by myself in the dewy fog (my hiking clothes are wet)… forgot the fly at KOA Acton so Boz is hitching back there now and will hopefully be back soon but who knows – really hope this doesn’t become a problem… Other than that slight hiccup we did almost 22 miles yesterday, felt pretty badass… After we filled up with about 3 more miles to go, the water weight killed me – I could feel my thighs burning, not to mention some butt chafe and inner thigh chafe. I really hope it doesn’t rain… in case I’ve got my jacket, rain pants, and a pretty good little shelter in those brambles to my left, just gotta watch all of the poison oak. Last night a guy named Swing came by and gave us a pull of whiskey. He said he’s been staying in town with his girlfriend just getting hammered – apparently there is a house up the way that hosts hikers, maybe we will end up there, but who knows really. Well, this is the first major issue that we have come across, but hopefully we can fix it. Now on to read Dune and question hikers about a fly as they pass by…”

That journal entry missed a few things from that 22 mile day (just to add while I still have the memories). We stopped for lunch in Agua Dulce, a little town that the trail goes through (road walking a bit). There used to be a place called Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce, but the owners stopped running it this year due to some PCT-superior people saying that it was causing a bottleneck effect (PCTA? Yogi? interesting backpacker article about it somewhere online). Anyways, we crushed some greasy pizzas, which made my stomach feel egg-cellent, and headed out of town. On the way back up hill into these rolling foothill/mountain meadow thingies, we walked past this weird junk yard. It had an entire Boeing 737 cabin sitting there. So weird. There are some bizarre sites in the California desert towns. Anyways, we walk up hill a ways and hit a sweet meadow on top of this grassy mountain. The wind whips through the grass. Boz and I look at each other and say something along the lines of “so dope”.

By that point we were pretty close to getting to this special mental place I love so much about hiking. You get to a certain point where you are so far removed from day to day “real world” life and all of its emails and texts and distractions. You start to look at the physical world around you and appreciate its subtleties. By doing this, you also simplify your mind. Emotions become less complicated, and certain things make you happy and certain things make you less happy. Eating snickers with peanut butter smeared all over it while sitting and overlooking a SoCal desert scene, wind blowing and about 80 degrees = happiness.

I’ll let the journal explain the next few days…

“5/27- 5:20am- Raul’s: Holy cow what a day. So Boz left at 7:30am yesterday to hitch to KOA and got back by 9:30am with Reeses, a Coke, and two bottles of whiskey. Pretty hilarious. Before this, I was pooping on a colony of ants but a girl walked by just as I finished up… close call, don’t really care though… So we hiked 12 or 13 miles or so and got to the firestation to drink some water. We then walked down the road on the way to “Casa de Luna’s” and this guy picked us up and we got in the back of his pickup. He pulled over then said his wife would kill him if he didn’t invite us over to eat, etc. So we went over he gave us beers introduced himself as Raul then left to get more beer. Probably the best beer I have ever had… Had to go, now back 2:26pm on top of a ridge under a tree in long grass with wind coming through. Today has been tough we are both hungover tired and grumpy from Raul’s. Morale is a little down, especially with our Achilles hurting. Hiked down a road a long ways which sucked then up a steep canyon trail. Halfway up we paused, a thru-hiker passed and then this guy named Kenny and his dog “Tigerwiggels”…”

As you can see, we had a little more trail magic go our way. People along the PCT are amazingly nice and always willing to help out, and Raul hosted us for the night. He was a great guy. We stayed up late drinking banquet beers and talking baseball and general guy stuff – great time. He even dropped us back off at the trail head. Guess we gotta pay it forward sometime. People are so nice.

 

“5/29: Boz and I got our mojo back. So two nights ago we camped at 498 – Sawmill CG. The brothers were there and also this weird rattlesnake guy. We thought we saw a rattlesnakeand went around it, but I don’t think it was one. Hiked starting at maybe 11am and made it 10 miles to Horse Camp at 3:30ish. Got some water and decided to head to Hikertown 10 miles away. Booked it holy nuts. Made it at like 7:30, not really sure. Bunch of people here. Bob runs the place. Richard owns the place and took us to the store this morning. He is a big time producer and was talking how the big solar companies buy up the land then steal farmers’ water– explaining this to a girl who is making a documentary following the LA aqueduct. Her name is Aqueduck. They have a guitar here with a spider that lives in it. Being out here makes me miss the ranch a lot. The day to day life, working on the land in an incredible place. Walking down at 7 last night to this valley was a beautiful thing. Complete bliss. Slingshot.”

Hikertown was a nice little detour for the night. It was right next to the Tejon Ranch – the last land dispute on the PCT conservation battle. Apparently Tejon finally gave in and a new section of trail will be opening that is a bit more mountainous and not as depressing and hot going along the aqueduct. Still, it was pretty cool, just painful. Since we were so low and so hot, we decided to wait until the late late afternoon to start hiking again:

“we left the evening and hiked with Sarge through the night along the aqueduct to the bridge with the water cache Bob was keeping. Night hiking is cool, but miserable, especially when you are forming blisters. Sarge is a cool guy though, fits his name real well. Always with a tucked in t-shirt sometimes a greenish-grey bandana, sunglasses, altra’s with “zero drop heel” and a ULA pack. Complete boss – probably in 50s and from Reno. Complete gearhead, he talked about a lot of cool stuff like his shoes and his shelter. We caught up to him and the 3 Germans the next morning to Tylerhorse Canyon. Found a nice shady tree to nap under and read Dune (just finished yesterday in the motel). At 4 or so we hiked up and out for a ways (serious up, 4000 to 6000)- we got to a water cache which also had apples – so good! – from Larry and his wife #larry. Hiked into dark then plopped down by trail. A ton of people passed us in the morning (we were still recovering from the night hike which was 17 miles from 4:30/5 to 11 so like 2 5/6 mph. Pretty good. So we walked in the morning to Tehachapi-Willows Road where Coppertone was parked! We were lucky he came out today, it was his first day. Real chill, real tan old guy. He’s going up to summit some peaks in the Sierras soon. He’s originally from Minnesota. We then hitched a ride to Tehachapi with a mother of two teenage boys (best possible case scenario) – checked into the Best Western then walked across town to get good ass BBQ from “Redhouse”. Went back to hotel- had a Minotaur and Swing sighting. Harry Potter marathon was on… ordered pizza… Completely vegged out which is good cuz my feet were blistered and I was just bone tired. Next day we ate at a bakery, went to the Christian store (Boz bought Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and the Hobbit), post office, Kmart (poptarts, cards, new shorts), and Big 5 to get trekking poles! They help so much it’s absurd. Then we crushed sushi for dinner. So yeah, the zero day was so sweet.”

Overall, the second leg was tough. We were feeling a little pain, both blister and mental-monotony wise. The excitement wore off after the first leg, and now we were just pounding out miles. The thought of jumping over streams and walking through snow in a few weeks baffled me. Still, the desert sunrises were beautiful, and we sometimes felt like Don Quijote walking through all those windmills. Seeing Coppertone for the second time was pretty fun. Tehachapi zero day was definitely MUCH needed. We healed up by calling people, watching harry potter, popping blisters, drinking some cervezas, and buying some trekking poles. We grabbed our resupply from the post office and packed up for the next leg. Boz and I also were perfecting our Italian accents: “hey copernicus!” “no lucretius!”… a bus would take us back to the trail in the morning…

IMAGES from LEG 2

can’t remember where this is, welcome to the desertIMG_0850.jpg

yogi.jpg interesting

vasquez rocks, zipper’s stoked on climbing, i’m stoked on sedimentary structuresIMG_0856.jpg“fear me” – zipperIMG_0859.jpg

crankingIMG_0863.jpg

rubbingIMG_0864.jpg

best beer of my life IMG_0872.jpg

road walk llama IMG_0876.jpg

dropping into antelope valley late, stopping in hikertownIMG_0883.JPG

california aqueduct IMG_0884.jpg

LA aqueduct (i could have them backwards)IMG_0885.jpg

night hiking was a bad decisionIMG_0887.jpg

 

 

Leg 3. Tehachapi –> Kennedy Meadows

“Caught the bus this morning and had a windy but successful day!”

Yay — we hit the trail with our fancy-shmancy new trekking poles. The cheap ones from the Big 5. Boz’s tip broke off the first day. We hiked up and away, into more windmills, leaning into the wind. Little did I know that this would be one of my favorite sections. The terrain was super variable, and we were feeling a real confidence in our legs for the first time. 20 mile days were no big deal.

“6/2: Chilling at Golden Oak Spring with the two dudes who are from ATL and Albany. Super chill- ATL guy talked about stepping over a baby rattlesnake (Mojave Green). Both had already done the AT which is dope. They say it is way more hilly.        Now chilling in tent. Did 22 miles today, got 20 tomorrow to make it to last water source before that long haul. Haven’t really been writing much lately. I have to stop that, gotta keep on writing. Oh one more fun thing today from the guy with tattoos and cyclist cap from ATL – he was ahead of us and came across a cow in the trail, which he tried shooing away until he realized it was a bull with horns. It then started to go towards him so he ran up a hill to a road and it followed him. He freaked out and looped a ways back. At least he cleared the path for us!”

The first day we climbed up into more high desert/Tehachapi mountains, but then we started hitting some serious trees. Real trees are so awesome to see after hiking through shrubs and sage for the past hundred miles or so. I can’t remember too much of the early portion, but I do remember taking a few breaks at springs and soaking up some great nap time. Since I had a foam pad, I could just detach it from my pack and spread it out. I’d lay back with my head on my pack and my feet elevated against the tree. Apparently raising your feet above your head every day is good for you. Of course after doing this I forgot my pad one time and had to run back 3 miles for it (and run 3 more miles back again).

“Well I just did a marathon today. It would’ve just been a 20 but I forgot my pad 3 miles back so I tacked on 6 more. Camping at Lander’s Camp with some nice water (mile 609). It’s Wed. and we are trying to make it to Kennedy Meadows General Store by 1 on Monday (20 mile days with 10 at the end?). Hiking feels real good- poles are great- I really like this section- it keeps changing from burned forest/desert mountains with windmills to tall pines and ponderosas like where we are staying now. Had a nice little siesta at Robin Spring with an older guy named Stretch, some kid from OC named Mellow who asked me for tp, and then wife-guy who has to fly home and red beard cross country shorts. Stretch was cool- he’s a fisherman. He is picking up his daughter after Kennedy Meadows and I guess she is spending the whole or part of summer hiking with him. The brothers are here again- I like Matt he’s a homie… Zona from Arizona.”

After staying in Lander’s Camp, in the cool shade of pine trees, we woke up the next morning and walked about 30 minutes and hit a sign that said “Sequoia National Forest: 20.0 miles”. Pretty exciting. Immediately after that, however, the desert returned. Episode VI: Return of the J-Trees (pretty relevant, whenever I was walking through the desert I felt like I was on Tattooine listening to Binary Sunset — it was also because of the second StarWars teaser which had that dope desert scene with Rey flying through with the huuge Star Destroyer in the background.. they should put one of those in the Mojave, I bet it would fit in pretty well). For the first time on our walk, I freaked out. My pee was turning pretty brown, and I felt weak. I definitely didn’t take enough water from Lander’s, and we were relying on getting more water from a questionable water cache. Boz was super chill about it. He wasn’t worried at all. Well, the PCTA/Trail Angel gods pulled through, there was plenty of water at the caches (think plastic gallon jugs of water under shrubs #BPA). After that, I remember walking up a sandy hill with sand so loose that I kept slipping and falling. I slammed my poles out of frustration. One of them bent. Guess I felt betrayed by the desert, I was really looking forward to trees, mountains, and streams.

By the way, some of these journal entries have snippets of my philosophical/”i wanna be a writer someday” thoughts. Enjoy them at your leisure, or ignore them, either way works…

“6/4: Woo just did 22 miles- chilling at the Bird Spring Pass cache with Taxi, the couple, Stretch, and Sarge just showed up. Pretty cool spot, I am chilling hard under a J-tree, they grow little Joshuas! Beautiful sunset, not sure I’ll be up to see the rise. Kind of a bummer hiking out of the pines back into the desert – I was scared about water big time. Seeing the sunset reminded me of questions from two songs: is love alive? where is love now? I really need to ask myself those questions every once in a while. The guy from the couple got bluff charged by a black bear in the Sierras btw. I was also daydreaming about the ranch- visiting and drinking coffee with Gary and Amber and the hands- ‘Gary, what’s the rankest horse you got?’ ‘Her name’s Buttercup…’ I also dreamed about going on the breakfast ride on a little colt- little horse for a little cowboy. God I love it out there. Special place.   The climb up that sandy ridge hill was miserable – I was being a pegasus, scared about dehydration. I’m tired, I’m out.”

“6/6: now at mile 673 in tent and it’s drizzling. Damn today was Gnarles Barkley. Lots of climbing but some dope ass views. Lots of new people on the trail. Yesterday was great too – chilled with Taxi and Radar in the morning then climbed a while – rest of the day was smooth sailing. Camped at Walker Pass CG. Guy was there with some gal and they had beer mmm- some Wales kids were camped there too. Mack was starting too. Stubin is another nice father figure. Sitting nude in tent now- pretty nice. I had the song from Traverse Town (Kingdom Hearts) stuck in my head. Damn I loved that game. I keep thinking about chasing beautiful moments, “love” in general. I am really liking this hiking thing – I think I will definitely want to do the CDT – but I gotta start reading up on it. How long of days will I have to pull? Can I do it? Dream on. Fuck yeah- nawm sahyn? Naom chamski! chow mein? lo mein! tan line? wrist watch.”

Apparently Walker Pass is where the real Sierras begin. I remember climbing up and up, then down, then up and up and up, then down. That day was a big day, and we were also running out of food before Kennedy Meadows. We were greedy and ate a ton of bars early on during the leg, which came back to bite us in the butt. Being hangry is no fun. Realizing your bone-tired because you don’t have enough calories also sucks.

The day we passed Walker Pass, Boz and I climbed up to a high ridge and decided to camp. We would be exposed for the next mile or two and decided to call it early due to the rain. I sat naked in the tent while Boz cooked dinner or something. It’s funny how ridiculously comfortable we are with each other at all times. I guess sleeping in the same tent for a month and a bit of hiking will make that happen. When we ate this one chicken tortilla soup packet, my farts smelled so bad he would punch me in my sleep. Everybody thought we were brothers. This one evening after doing some naked meditating, I put on my long underwear and invited Boz in for some cards. We played Egyptian Ratscrew, the age-old classic. By this point, we were pretty weird and would yell out some weird things as we played. Pretty sure we freaked out whoever was camped next to us (I think it was this San Fran couple or the band of 3 arizona brothers).

Anyways, the day after the light drizzle, we hiked a ways through some beautiful views. We started to realize that we were officially entering into some serious mountains. We even hiked past a real river with water in it! We stopped short of Kennedy Meadows due to some heavy fatigue, but it made sense to roll up to the general store in the late morning instead of the night. We made it to Kennedy Meadows the next day where we would take a “nero” (near zero) day and pick up our bear canisters for the Sierras. We also crushed some burgers and ice cream and chilled out with a bunch of cool hikers. There were at least 20 hikers hanging out there, and everyone clapped when a new hiker walked up.

The chill-time was much needed, along with the calorie replenishment. We planned a 12 day leg (can’t believe that) to our next stop, VVR, so our food supply was HEAVY. Fitting all of that into our packs was not fun, and it was sad to say good bye to such a cool-transitional bit of hiking. The idea of climbing to over 10,000 feet of altitude was a bit more exciting though…

IMAGES from LEG 3

cheap trekking poles, a little more legitIMG_0890.JPG

#snickersgains = snickers with peanut butter on top IMG_0892.jpg

cowsIMG_0899.JPG

loved these breaks, especially when peanut butter was involvedIMG_0897.jpg

neck sweat/dirt v on point plus zipper getting some snickers actionIMG_0910.jpg

j trees IMG_0908.JPG

sniffing sage as it rains over thereIMG_0916.jpg

check those tan linesIMG_0920.jpg

treeeeeesIMG_0929.jpgfellow hikers on the way to the diner from kennedy meadows for breakfastIMG_0940.JPG

no tp left in a gross outhouse pt. 2, notice how much more relaxed i am about it #changeIMG_0945.jpg

 

 

 

Leg 4. Kennedy Meadows –> Vermillion Valley Resort

This portion was… I don’t have a word for it… I just make a noise that sounds something like “uuuuuuhhhghhhmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhssssssssyesmmmmmmmmm”. Something like that.

Our first day we left from Kennedy Meadows at noon. Our packs were ridiculously heavy with 12 days worth of food (maybe 50lb total? not sure). To curb the pain, we plugged into our freshly charged iphones for some music. I had been listening to the Wood Brothers “The Muse” album, the new Nickel Creek album, and Dawes “Stories Don’t End” on repeat. I was also selfishly listening to some newly mastered recordings of the Claremont Shades, my a cappella group at school. Their versions of Holocene by Bon Iver and Winter Song by Sara Bareilles/Ingrid Michaelson made me feel some serious emotion, especially while hiking through the jaw-dropping landscapes of the PCT.

Anyways, we were listening to music and Boz nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. Fun stuff. It was rattling under a sage bush.

We didn’t hike very far, and ended up camping with a few recent friends:

“6/9 Tuesday: Hanging at mile 709 or so with Whatever, Swing, and the couple. Left from Kennedy Meadows at noon- sort of drizzling out but damn our packs are heavy. Got a nice fire going which feels good. Just finished 2nd Dune book – kind of depressing, but I started Brothers Karamazov which is surprisingly good.”

While hanging around the fire, we talked about the NBA finals and some food tips from Swing: velveeta, summer sausage/stick of salami, avocados on a tortilla with salt and pepper, red onion, sausage and cheese, jalapenos are cool, green and yellow peppers stay more ripe, onions…

Then a naked old man came walking down from the trail to join us… it was Coppertone! Our third sighting:

“Coppertone just showed up in the nude. Badass.”

After that day, we kept climbing. We were getting preeetty high up there. Apparently jet fighters think it’s cool to fly a kabillion miles an hour right over our heads and scare the living daylights out of us… damn jets.

“6/12 Friday: It’s amazing how much can happen in a few days up here. Left Wed. morning, climbed into a beautiful meadow as I day dreamed about meeting my family in Eagle Creek Meadows while hiking the CDT. We kept climbing a ways and it started to drizzle- we stopped and Boz and I got a little upset at each other- mainly because I’ve been so ‘don’t do this’ etc. Got bit by a spider or something on my neck and it started to hail. We huddled under a tree and it was fine – kept going as it drizzled some more. Met old guy Lloyd who was an old Sierra Club member. Camped 731 w/Whatever and those Georgia brothers and Cheney. Next day was great- decided to head to Lone Pine. Went down Mulkey Pass – Horseshoe Meadows is gorgeous! Serene mountain backdrop with a mountain stream trickle meandering through green grass – little trout in it too! And marmots. Took a while to get a ride but we got in the back of some pickup w/cab and made it. Ate pizza, watched the Warriors tie the series 2-2. Got a motel room. Grease was on. Woke up today, had breakfast at McDonalds – stocked up on snickers then got a hitch with this climbing couple. Great people. About to start again!”

The stop in Lone Pine was an interesting one to say the least. We befriended a few townsfolk and also watched the worst game in the NBA finals. The one where LeBron hit his head on that guy’s camera. I was in Lone Pine 2 months earlier for a geology field trip… We also didn’t buy much new food besides snickers, which sort of bit us in the butt later since we ended up climbing Mt. Whitney… Oh another big thing in Lone Pine: Zipper got a new sleeping bag with a zipper that worked. Very important because we were about to face some chilly nights…

“6/13: What a day! Last afternoon we hiked up Cottonwood Pass to get back to PCT, at the top a chipmunk wanted my food. Hiked to Chicken Lake, gorgeous, spent the night there. Today we had a pretty intense day with some climbs, dropped to 9500 now we are at 11,500 I think. In this meadow there was a gorgeous stream with golden trout and deer were grazing I caught like 5 fish, such pretty things. Staying at Guitar Lake, cold and rainy. So epic up here. Fresh snow for us to climb Whitney – hope it’s not sketch.”

We were in the Sierras now. Mountains started popping up, they were so steep. That afternoon I caught some fish with my fishing line/fly/trekking pole contraption. It felt good and also reminded me of fishing in Wyoming.

Off the PCT we veered, on the way to Whitney. We had to climb a ways up (to 11,500) to base camp at Guitar Lake. It was very cold and rainy, apparently it snowed on the summit of Whitney on several thru-hikers. Meanwhile, Zipper and Slingshot were chilling in our tents, praying the marmots don’t steal our food from our bear cans.

WHITNEY WAS AWESOME. So glad we decided to summit. I was a bit nervous about not having microspikes or any sort of traction — lots and lots of snow and ice on the switchbacks — but it turned out to be ok. Just one sketchy section. We started around 5am and got up there by 8:30 or 9… can’t really remember too well. It was super fun observing the Whitney day-hikers and the John Muir Trail hikers. Much different mentality going on with those groups compared to the old PCT hikertrash we were used to. Some guy yelled at a kid because he pooped on the side of the mountain. You’re supposed to pack your #2 out in a “wagbag” along the Whitney corridor.. #shithappens.

After hiking Whitney, we jogged down the mountain (ate it a few times) and started walking back to the PCT. We would now join up with the John Muir Trail (JMT) for the rest of our hike into Yosemite. Most people who do the JMT start in Yosemite and finish at Whitney, so most PCTers are going north and encountering JMTers going south. JMTers LOVE to leave amazing pieces of expensive gear and amazing food in hiker boxes. I heard about a thru-hiker scoring 4 Mountain House dehydrated meals in one hiker box. JMTers along with general other backpackers tend to smell better than PCTers, and I occasionally could smell a clean hiker before seeing them. Pretty wild.

By the end of the day, Boz and I were beat and ended up camping next to this amazing stream where I spotted a huge trout in a pool. Wasn’t so successful.

“6/14: Holy nuts. Climbed Whitney in the morning (so dope) then hiked back to PCT, now chilling by river/stream. Had a big trout snap my line with the fly. Whatever climbed Whitney starting at 1am or something, got to summit at 5:45am. On climb up met an Orioles fan super pissed at someone for taking a dump on the mountain. Got real tired with a headache today, but hopefully I’ll sleep it off – got Forester Pass tomorrow!”

Since Whitney, every single spot we camped was a huge mountain landscape. I could have spent weeks there… walking 5 miles a day and soaking it all in. I think we were in Kings Canyon National Park. Absolutely gorgeous. No wonder John Muir geeked out.

That day after Whitney, we climbed Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT, and posed for a photo. Just after that, my phone died, so I didn’t really have a chance to take any more photos. Kind of fitting… photos wouldn’t do that walk any justice (but still kinda bummed about it). I’ll try to explain with words, but I can’t express how amazing it is and how I think everyone should try to hike the John Muir Trail or a section of it close to Mt. Whitney. So epic. Those mountains are jagged and fearsome… I heard the Wind River Range in Wyoming is even better…

Also — just a general note — due to limited snowfall for the past few years, we never faced any serious snow issues. The backside of Forester and Glenn were a bit sketchy on the descent with some icy snow, but ice axes and microspikes were not needed at all unlike other years in the middle of June.

The next few days consisted of walking up to incredibly high passes, then a long downhill followed by another climb and pass, and so on. These long climbs (sometimes over 2000 ft of elevation change) really took a lot of energy, and we went rather fast on the downhills which jolted our bones. With our food supply dwindling, we raced to VVR, pulling high mileage days when most others slowed down for enjoyment and for soreness.

“6/15: 19 miles later- 2 passes passed (Forester and Glenn) now camped at lower Rae Lake with Key Lime and Pink Panther. Lots of trout jumping. Boz picks the Colts for next Superbowl. We are also going to trademark snickers#gains. Snickers with a layer of peanut butter on top.”

“The 16th Tuesday- Pinchot Pass kicked my ass! Only had one pole for a bit until I duct taped it. Saw a guy put mud all over himself for the mosquitoes. We then hustled down and went up the next pass- Mathers Pass which was not as long/steep. The walk up was actually really nice- ate last of the dried mangos. Late afternoon light hitting the coolest view of the mountains where there was a mountain that was red and the next ridge over was grey granite.  17th Wednesday- Long day to get to Muir Pass, caught another fish. Muir Pass was a climb but on top there was a shelter built by the Sierra Club and a bunch of cool thru hikers were up there. We ate Chana Masala up there and then departed on an awesome hour walk- into the fading sunset. The dusky colors in the sierras are so cool- not only was there an orange-pink west horizon with pink jet streams as planes flew by, but a star or planet appeared above the jagged mountain peak behind the lake, like something in Kingdom Hearts, then you look back and the deepest purple-blue-night-coming sky hanging over snowy mountains reflected by a shimmering lake- holy shit.”

I still have the picture of Mather’s Pass and Muir Pass in my head. Both times, we went over them past 6 o’clock, so the sun was getting low. I’ve realized my favorite times hiking have been either really early in the morning, or after dinner. I’m bummed I couldn’t take any pictures, but those images will stick with me for a long time. Here’s the view walking down the north side of Muir Pass. Imagine the sky behind it turning pink and a little bright planet/star appearing just above the peak in the center. Then look behind you at the pass you just went over and you see the real meaning of “purple mountain majesty”. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I felt like a 5 year old kid as my jaw dropped to the rocky path.

That night after Muir Pass, we camped at the end of the second lake (actually looks like the third one but they’re connected) in that photo. Because the stars were so amazing, we decided to “cowboy camp” that night, sleep under the stars without a tent. We were about 3 feet above the lake and about 10 feet away from the edge… big mistake. I woke up at 4am; my bag was frozen with frost. The fog/dew from the lake moisture froze as it dipped below freezing temperatures. Even though it was late June, it gets below freezing when you’re that high up in the mountains. Boz also woke up with a frozen bag, and we had a quick conversation that went something like:

“Uh, my bag is covered in frost.”

“Mine too.”

“Are you cold?”

“Yeah, but I don’t feel like getting up.”

“Same.”

“Should we start walking?”

“No, it’s too cold.”

“Word.”

Sounds about right. I curled up in my bag and entered a weird state of sleep-wake-dream-shivering equilibrium until the sun came up. It’s funny how much I craved that sunrise whereas other days I wanted to sleep as long as possible. The Laminza Z 22* bag held up pretty well though and the inside was very warm and not wet at all. We spread our stuff (bags and tent fly used as a groundsheet) out on a boulder for it to dry in the morning sun as we ate our poptart breakfast, read our books, and scanned the scenery around us. It was quiet. A few of those guys from the Muir Pass hut passed by. Lots of ~28 year old, tall, skinny white dudes with beards. We were planning for a big day. Our food was almost out, so we needed to haul a** to VVR for our resupply.

We walked gently downhill for half the day, then gradually uphill for the rest of the afternoon until we hit Seldon Pass pretty late. Apparently we did 27 miles that day, our longest walk yet. This time we went past the lakes on the other side and camped a bit lower. I remember the mosquitos were at their worst that night. We cooked outside in our full rain gear to avoid getting eaten alive by what felt like thousands of mosquitos swarming us and then took our food in our tents to enjoy without being a human blood meal for the skeeters. It was our last meal, ramen, and all we had left for tomorrow was a packet of oatmeal each, a clif bar each, and a very small amount of gorp. We had 14 miles to go. Can’t remember much from that day other than being hungry and tired, getting our permits checked by some rangers, and walking around a big, dammed lake (guess it was a reservoir) to head towards VVR. We ran into a mom taking a day hike, and she graciously dropped us off at VVR (5 minute ride further around the lake).

“6/21, Sunday 7am@VVR: So that other day, the day after Muir Pass, Thursday, we did 27 or 28 miles- man that felt good. On the way up to Seldon Pass we ran into Lumberjack, Haole, and Moccasin. Man he’s cool. Yesterday morning we were eating with Moccasin and Andrei (Dr. Drei)- heard some cool stories… some other American kicked some stuff off the deck with bare feet then got stabbed by a venomous spiny fish and went into paralysis. Everyone thought he was dead, but they did CPR until a helicopter came with anti-venom and he came around in the hospital or something. He then talked about getting piss angry in a bar and Australians dragging him out into ‘the bush’ – where you wake up and don’t know which way to walk. If you choose the wrong way you die. He somehow walked the right way while blacked out then woke up in a gravel lot with a peacock staring at him and also the van and guys he was traveling with… Anyways we did 14 miles to get here on Friday, had to show our permits to some rangers and got picked up by a mom of a thru-hiker. She thought we were doing the same so we went along with it, I felt guilty but I guess it’s ok? Met cool people here, dug up a septic tank with Lumberjack for a free burger. Feel good though and I’m ready to hike out. I also got denim-looking dirty-girls.”

Dirty-girls are these mini-gaiters a lot of thru-hikers wear. Boz got cheetah print…

We met a lot of awesome people at VVR and ended up taking a full zero there. It slowly started dawning on us that our trip was coming to an end. We only had 70 miles or so until Tuolumne Meadows. We had a flight from SF to BWI on July 1. As we prepared for our last leg, I sort of had a feeling of “let’s get this over with” (probably due to the pain I was beginning to feel on my lower right shin), but then again, we met a crew of really cool thru-hikers who had a blast as they traveled. I wonder what would happen if we just kept walking with them instead of catching a flight back home… strictly hypothetical…

Still, the tough hiking was far from over, and we had to climb up a whole day to even get back on the PCT…

IMAGES from LEG 4

no zipper for zipperIMG_0951.jpg

getting up thereIMG_0955.JPG

quick hitch into lone pine to watch the nba finalsIMG_0957.jpg

chicken lake, water level seriously downIMG_0975.jpg

foxtail pine? the ones that twist a lotIMG_0980.JPG

sierra gorp breakIMG_0983.JPG

heading up to base camp under whitneyIMG_0984.JPG

top of whitney, photo taken by a jmt hiker originally from baltimore!IMG_0989.JPG

on the way down, trying to look feared as we encountered day hikers and jmtersIMG_0994.jpg

baby golden caught with trekking pole and parachute adams flyIMG_1007.JPG

top of forester pass looking south towards the way we came from, highest point on the pct (13,153′), lots of snow on the other sideIMG_1015.JPG

vvr pickups: exhibit a (#ay)IMG_1022.jpg

vvr pickups: exhibit bIMG_1023.jpg

“tell me i’m perma-feared” – zipperIMG_1021.jpg

 

Leg 5. Vermillion Valley Resort –> Tuolumne Meadows

It was time to leave VVR and begin our last leg. Couldn’t believe how far we had come from Mt. Baden-Powell on May 20th. We walked up Goodale Pass to approach the PCT. After we crossed over, we spotted a lake with extreme chill-ability potential. Zip and I looked at each other and instantly decided to take a “wilderness-zero” there.

That day at Lake of the Lone Indian was one for the books. We never saw a soul that day. We hung out, played Peter Pan/follow the leader, pigged out on some extra food we bought at VVR, meditated, skinny-dipped/jumped off rocks, and ate sour skittles.

“6/28: Guess I haven’t written in a full week since VVR. So we headed up Goodale Pass that day. Played tag with Lumberjack on the way up and Simba. Went over the pass- a bag of trail mix was up there- then headed down to veer off trail (not even on PCT yet) to Lake of the Lone Indian. Gorgeous though sort of buggy, not bad with breeze. Wowzers that was fun. Sour Skittles will never be the same. Left in the morning and booked it to Reds Meadow- passed wolverine looking crew and older lady with braces on the way. Got a burger and milkshake and met up with the crew from VVR. Played frisbee trying to knock off beer bottles on top of trekking poles. That was Tuesday. Wednesday we headed out through Devil’s Postpile and saw a huge black bear (it was brown) run away uphill. We did the JMT alternate hopping from lake to lake. Met George Boone and his horses- both he and Andrei are from Croatia. Hopped into Rosarie Lake, but the day sucked on my shin splints, left lower shin. Camped looking at Emerald Lake I think with Chuck the Chipmunk. Fancy and the gang passed that evening – we caught up to them at Donahue Pass where a ranger checked our permits. On the way up we saw some trail runners going from Tuolumne to Reds. Got me thinking…. Hiked down with Geisha to drop into Lyell Canyon. Gorgeous. We stopped early as our last PCT camp night. Caught a brookie out of the tributary to the river. Ate tortilla soup and farted up a storm. Next morning we walked to Tuolumne where we have been hanging since. But now I am on a bus to Yosemite valley. Exciting. Can’t wait to get home, but at the same time I really wish I could just keep going. Ah such conflict.”

Just like that, our PCT trip was finished. Lyell Canyon was a perfect way to end. A gorgeous mountain valley meadow with a river full of trout meandering its way through the grass. Once in Tuolumne Meadows campground, we met up with the crew from VVR and had some serious chill time. This included regaining calories through double stuff oreos and beer. Hanging out at the general store, we saw Jared Leto and a film crew. One of his assistants asked us for an interview, time to become famous! Leto took us into the woods and we individually answered some cliché questions about what wilderness meant to us. I didn’t really know what to say, and I probably sounded like a sentimental hippy. I think they liked Boz better because he had his mirror-sunglasses on, looking pretty hollywood. Leto was filming for his documentary, “The Great Wide Open”, so keep your eyes out if you see it come out online somewhere.

We also saw Alex Honnold (famous rock climber) talking to Jared Leto in the parking lot. Boz freaked out and ran to meet him. He slipped and fell hard on his way there. He got to shake his hand… classic Yosemite famous rock climber sighting.

We had to say goodbye to our new friends at Tuolumne Meadows before we departed for the valley. Our hike really felt over when I gave my slingshot to Lumberjack. That slingshot belongs on the PCT… I wonder where it is now…

“6/30: Last day of June, hanging at Yosemite Lodge huddled against the glass… The valley is pretty darn cool except the amount of people that are down here so we got in from the bus at Curry Village, hiked to the gross Mirror Lake then stayed at the Backpackers’ camp at North Pines, I even paid my $6! I illegally made a foraged-firewood fire to roast the smores we found in the bear locker. We also found fireball in there too. Boz went to the village and I met a cool couple, John and Anna who had just finished the JMT, but were broke because someone took their debit card number. They had tattooed their partners’ initial on their ring finger instead of rings….”

After a few days in Yosemite, we caught a bus for San Francisco. Unfortunately, one of the tires went flat, and we ended up waiting at a Taco Bell for 3 hours. We arrived sometime around midnight in the city and caught an uber to the place we were crashing. Thanks for the hospitality Cecily! Felt weird to be sleeping inside on couches… The next morning we ubered to the airport for our flight back to Baltimore. Luckily, we washed our clothes in Yosemite and showered in the morning, so we didn’t smell that bad… still hadn’t applied any deodorant yet. It was weird being around so many people.

The flight went smoothly. At BWI, our parents met us at the baggage claim. We talked for a while about our adventure and asked about Baltimore summer as we waited for our packs. They finally came, and we looked at each other to say good bye. For the first time in over a month, we wouldn’t see each other for a few days. We laughed and fist bumped then hugged.

Here is a sentimental tidbit from my journal written somewhere before Yosemite.

“The adventure really is coming to an end – don’t know what to think – I’ve liked how simple my mind gets on the trail. I just have goals, see beauty, and love. Love is everywhere.”

 

one of the coolest and most picturesque meadows, heading back up to pct IMG_1030.JPG

lake of the lone indian, home of our wilderness zeroIMG_1032.JPG

lots of chilling that day and jumping off rocks into the lakeIMG_1037.jpg

lunch meditationIMG_1044.jpg

hydration is key, clear and copious is the key to successIMG_1047.jpg

fresh dirty girl gators IMG_1049.JPG

jumped in that lake tooIMG_1053.jpg

looking back at the really tall mountains behind usIMG_1055.jpg

last night on the trail, classic #snickersgains actionIMG_1058.jpg

lyell canyon chilling, view of the last pass we went over, Donahue PassIMG_1063.JPG

reflecting on the hikeIMG_1066.jpg

mmmmm view from the grassIMG_1086.JPG

playing cobain’s mandolin, photo credit to cobain

fun at tuolumne meadows ft. ironhusk, fancy feet, and howlie (left to right)IMG_1088.JPG

goodbye pic with (left to right): highwater, rebell biskitt, geisha diamonds, ironhusk, cobain, fancy feet, riverjelly, and howlieIMG_1095.JPG

checking out andrei3k’s tarp set up at the backpacker’s camp (he also goes by dr. drei)IMG_1099.jpg

work it zip, nevada falls yosemite, trying to readjust to societyIMG_1115.jpg

looking down at vernal falls and all the peopleIMG_1118.JPG

city boy, coffee and uber in SFIMG_1128.jpg

 

 

Where to start on summing it all up?

My journey on the PCT 2015 was one I will remember for the rest of my life. Not only was it special for me, but it was an incredible experience to have with my best friend. Peter and I have been through plenty of difficulties and challenges as we have grown up, but we got to struggle everyday on the PCT together. I don’t think I know anybody else who could put up with me for that long, let alone help me out when I have the occasional “oh my god it’s not going exactly how I planned it” freak out. You’re an incredible friend, Boz, and I’m looking forward to more adventures with you, Zipper.

In a different, more practical sense, the PCT section taught me a lot of lessons about long distance hiking. The biggest is probably coming to peace with whatever comes and goes. Stuff will go wrong. Equipment will break. The weather will do crazy things. You will get hurt. Blisters will happen. Chafing will happen. Food will run short. The PCT taught me to have confidence in my own hiking/outdoors ability and remain calm when issues pop up. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do and you have to cope with that, and sometimes these issues can be solved if you slow down and think about what to do.

For instance, by the end of our hike, I was having some serious shin pain on my right leg. I still don’t know if it was shin splints or a high ankle sprain of some sorts. Experiencing a leg injury like that has struck a bit of fear into me for my CDT hike. In order to not get injured, I’m planning on carrying much less weight, keeping my footwear fresh (and also switching to a different type of shoe), and also strengthening my ankles, calves, and shins before the hike to prevent shin splints… enough about that.

Everyday I think about our PCT hike once or twice at the very least. Hiking taught me to be a daydreamer. Dream big, plan big. As I’m writing this, snow is piling outside of my house. I almost decided to walk downtown with my sister and join other young adults at the bars, but I decided against that because it’s so nice here by the fire with netflix… Still, I would give anything to be out on the trail again. All I would have to think about is my next meal, my next camp site, or how awesome those mountains look in the distance.

To those of you who have always considered taking a big long-distance hiking trip, do it. You won’t regret it. I’m sure your experience could be much better or much worse and generally much different than mine, but it’ll be significant nonetheless and give you another perspective on life. The national scenic trails are amazing feats of American spirit upheld by volunteer organizations like the PCTA, the ATC, and the CDTC. The trail is waiting. Just be sure to bring enough snickers and peanut butter.

-Slingshot